Mike “Fox” Foxall has spent his life as a devoted soldier at the font lines of the underground for over 30 years now! Slinging his various skills as a musician, artist, filmmaker, animator and publisher.
Or to put it in Mike’s own words: “Local idiot can’t commit to single discipline.”
Born in the Australian country town of Bathurst in 1970, Mike first established himself creatively in the early 1990s via much loved punk band Nancy Vandal. Which he sang, played guitar and a whole variety of other instruments in. A band which importantly allowed Mike to also develop his artistic talents, through the constant need for album art, merch, promotional art and music videos.
After NV broke up in the early 2000’s Mike settled into a life of family, filmmaking and further artistic development. Whilst also working as a freelance animator, designer and artist.
Then in 2012 or so, with his children more independent, Mike ventured back into the world of music. Forming acclaimed psych boogie rock n roll outfit The Neptune Power Federation, which he plays guitar in. With bass handled by Mike’s good friend, Frenzal Rhomb member; and occasional radio announcer Jay Whalley, with vocals by Jay’s wife Lauren Friedman.
Still going strong over 10 years since forming, NPF released their 5th and most recent LP ‘Le Demon De L’amour’ in 2022, via Italian label Cruz Del Sur Music.
Over the last decade or so, Mike has also delved into the world of fine art. With his lowbrow style paintings being shown at galleries throughout Australia. Were his unique, highly textured works have gained him fans all over the globe.
Wanting to place all his fingers, in all the pies, Mike then founded ‘Speek Evil’ periodical in 2020. A music focused, print magazine that includes comics, fictional tales, retro record reviews and interviews. Most notably, the entirety of each issue is beautifully illustrated and designed by Mike. It’s part comic book, part magazine and 100% pure underground culture gold!
Most recently, Mike has added a further band to his roster – High energy trash rock n rollers Sick Fizz, which he sings and plays guitar in. A band who have quickly made a name for themselves due to their fun, raucous, bubblegum-pop influenced garage punk. With Sick Fizz having just released their debut LP ‘We Fucked This City in Rock & Roll.’
Wanting to get to know him better, and learn more about his myriad of projects, we sent Mike some questions to answer over email.
Take an inebriated stage-dive into his world, below…
Name + D.O.B?
Mike Foxall, born in 1970
City, State and Country you currently call home?
Bathurst, NSW, Australia.
City, State and Country you’re from?
Please describe some memories – such as art, music, friendships, adventures, study, romance, politics, work, religion, crime… anything really – from the stages of your life noted below:
* Your childhood:
I had a pretty regular country upbringing – my parents were regional middle class mum and dad archetypes and I passed through school uneventfully.
Mum was a practising Catholic who dragged me to church every Sunday right until I left home.
I found church painfully boring and use to pass the time imagining a team of tiny people had to traverse from one side of the church to the other using grappling hooks and whatnot over the duration of the service. It was dangerous business with many of them plunging to violent deaths, falling into candles etc.
If mum knew what was running through my mind she may have realised I was a lost cause religion-wise and let me stay at home with my Dad.
I was really into drawing and creative writing from a young age and pretty passionately into comics.
I favoured non-superhero DC stuff like Sgt Rock, Jonah Hex, The Unknown Soldier and horror anthologies and was obsessed with the style of Joe Kubert. I used to draw my own comic called “Sgt Kole” which was a shameless rip-off of Sgt Rock only with wonky anatomy and Threat Level Midnight level plotting.
I was also a massive big Mad Magazine fan, scrutinising the work of Don Martin and Mort Drucker in particular. Both kind of shaped the way I draw today I think.
Under crime: Anti drugs campaigner Donald Mackay was shot and killed in a Griffith pub carpark when I was a kid.
There was a whole chunk of genuine mafia shit going on in that town that I didn’t grasp the magnitude of til many years later after I’d left.
* Your teenage years:
I guess the most notable thing in this time was really getting into music. I was heaps into heavy metal as a teen and developed a real dislike of mainstream music and what other kids my age were listening to, an elitist snobbishness I have successfully maintained to this day.
Being pretty isolated geographically and without a wiser older influence to guide the way I was using a lot of pot luck in the records I’d buy – Employing a scientifically dubious method of looking for bands with long hair and the word “rock” in a song title before making my blind purchases. It was actually pretty effective to be fair.
I was still into drawing and writing but never really considered pursuing it after school finished as a career, or even considering what I did as “art”.
It was similar to music – I was not really exposed to much cool art stuff out in the bush so it was going to take a bit longer to work that all out.
* Your 20s:
I moved to Sydney after school to do a Bachelor of Arts at NSW Uni majoring in English and History – With a view to doing a Dip Ed after that and become a high school teacher.
The real life changing benefit of Uni however was meeting my future band mates JJ LaMoore and Marcus “Rolfe” Rolfe, learning how to play the guitar (JJ had just started a year previously and was my first and only teacher) and forming a covers band that would eventually morph into my first proper band Nancy Vandal.
I quickly became obsessed with writing and performing music and even though I got through my degree ok (and did spend a year school teaching) Nancy Vandal quickly became the prime focus of my 20s. Handily, it also really turbo charged my art stuff, as the constant need for flyers, posters, t-shirts, album covers and music videos meant I was always doing something art wise.
The way music and art came together also really crystallised my style and aesthetic which more or less continues to this day.
I also FINALLY discovered there was an entire world of underground art out there operating in the kind of fantasy world I lived in. I got right into Frank Kozik, Jamie Hewlett, Frank Frazetta and Ralph Steadman and studied local guys like Giles Kilham aka Fat Ankle and Ben Brown.
The other significant event to take place in this decade was meeting my future wife Nicole. She and I met in 1993 and hit it off pretty much from the get go. We were both country kids (she was from Bathurst) who had discovered our “true selves” in the dingy alternative rock venues of Sydney’s Inner West in the early 90s.
She was also into art and a cool artist in her own right so we were a pretty good match and got married in early 1998.
At that stage I was working at Utopia Records in Sydney but decided after our honey moon I wasn’t going back and would try instead to make a fist of working as a freelance artist / animator. I had taught myself how to use video/animation software whilst doing band related art and had been building up a small number of regular clients in my free time.
The idea of working from home and not answering to a bossman was a powerful lure, so that’s what I did for the last years of my 20s. With a bit of good fortune and no hint of a business plan, it went pretty well.
* Your 30s:
I’d kind of burnt out on music by the end of the 90s.
Nancy Vandal played a heap through the latter part of the decade and had our moments, but I felt we’d run our race. Humorously I thought at the time 30 years old was too old to be in band.
Nicole and I moved out to Bathurst in 2000 to be a bit closer to her parents as we’d decided to start a brood of younglings, which we did. Ivy (2001) and Jed (2005) came onto the scene, we bought a house in Bathurst and we entered the haze of mum and dad world.
By this stage I’d stumbled into a free lance career producing animation for tv commercials. It started off with music adjacent stuff for The Big Day Out and Shock Records but eventually my work was coming from generic corporate clients.
It wasn’t as cool as doing flyers for Vulcan Hotel band nights but the pay was a lot better. That was convenient as Nicole had taken a step back from her nursing career while the kids were little so I became the primary bread winner, like a genuine traditional adult male.
I even played a bit of golf.
In retrospect this was the time in our lives when we became really fucking boring, but at least we can recognise that now.
The one interesting thing I did in my 30s was get into short film making – I think as a way of doing something in the video/animation realm not dictated by a dull commercial entity.
As I was no longer playing music the constant demand for this stuff had dried up, as had band clients who I no longer hung out with on a regular basis. So to fill the void I made a bunch of short films, the highlight probably being “You Are So Dead” which made the Tropfest finals of 2003.
We travelled up to Sydney to see it screened at the Domain and it was quite a thrill. Russell Crowe was on the judging panel and while he didn’t know me from Adam, I couldn’t help but feel some mild nervousness imagining him discover I had recently animated the Frenzal Rhomb song Russel Crowe’s Band which ruthlessly mocked his musical career.
Imagine if he found out, flew into a rage and threw a phone at me?
None of this happened as it turned out.
Another film I made around then was about a sentient stuffed bear that I half animated, half pupeteered in various locations around town. It had a bit of a Duel vibe if I may compare myself to a young Spielberg and was also clearly the inspiration for the Mark Wahlberg vehicle Ted.
My Nanna famously commented sweetly after watching it “And that’s supposed to be good is it?”
Towards the latter end of the 2000s as the kids became less dependant on us being their round the clock servants, Nicole and I tentatively stepped out of the all consuming parenthood bubble and started travelling to Sydney to see live bands again.
Nancy Vandal did a few one off reunion shows and I got the rock and roll bug again.
* Your 40s:
In 2012 I formed a band called The Neptune Power Federation.
It began as a studio project but gradually became a real band and dominated a lot of my creative life in that decade. Just as Nancy Vandal did in my 20s it necessitated a lot of art and video creation.
Playing with TNPF across the country and eventually the world saw me mixing with bands, festivals and their underground communities again and made me realise how much I missed creating art in that realm.
My go to subjects were still skulls, demons and monsters with some sense of humour of whimsy. It’s what I was drawn to as a kid and nothing had fundamentally change – it had just taken me this long to work it out.
I also consciously attempted to get technically better with my art for the first time in my life.
I did a bunch of art workshops in Sydney, started painting seriously and found an excellent art teacher in Bathurst called Merilyn Rice who helped me a lot.
Along the way I finally starting considered what I was doing as art and myself as an artist.
Nicole was on a parallel journey herself as she also become a very successful selling artist and we both started doing solo and group art shows. It was fun having that common interest blossom at the same time.
I should also shout out the amazing Glenn “Glenno” Smith here – he has been the driver for many of the excellent group shows I exhibited in and actually unknowingly did a lot to help usher me into the lowbrow art world.
* Your 50s so far:
Pretty early days so far!
I guess the new thing here is the creation of my magazine Speek Evil which I’ll elaborate on in a moment.
“Have a good time all the time.”
(Borrowed from Viv Savage, Spinal Tap)
What role did toys play in your childhood?
I was very much into both Matchbox cars and those little plastic soldiers, both would feature in elaborate scenes which I guess reflected my interest in storytelling?
I think I could easily have gone down the film maker route if someone has handed me a video camera when I was a kid.
Who are some of your favourite artists, writers, filmmakers and musicians?
…and what is it about their works that so inspire and move you?
There are heaps!
Other than the artists I mentioned previously – I love a lot of lowbrow artists with distinctive styles such as Glenn Barr, Jeff Soto and Rockin JellyBean.
A guy that really influenced my art is Jonathan Wayshak. He has this beautiful blend of chaotic messiness and incredible drawing skill. I’m in awe of his stuff.
He also motivated me to really embrace a non-digital approach when making art after spending quite a while at getting proficient in the digital realm. Ultimately that digital stuff still comes into play at some point but I like to make sure my art goes through some real world rough and tumble to give it an authentic, lived in kind of vibe.
Whilst I have said music is the main thing that informs my art, films have a pretty significant role to play as well.
I lean towards cult or off kilter / atmospheric horror stuff or surrealist comedy. A Clockwork Orange, Alien, Mad Max and Monty Python & The Holy Grail all made big impacts growing up.
More recently I have really dug stuff like Mandy, Mother!, Black Swan, Bellflower, Fury Road, Possessor and the Suspiria remake for their look and mood.
Comedy wise I gravitate towards stuff like Step Brothers, Hot Rod, MacGruber and Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar
Music is probably the hardest to narrow down as I listen to so much of it.
I love proto punk and proto metal from the early 70s as well as most blues and boogie rock stuff from the same era. Same with glam rock.
Actually almost anything from the early 70s will float my boat – I just love the way instruments sounded and were recorded in that era.
Whilst that is all true, I’m still a rabid consumer of new music and am always looking out for and listening to new stuff (or “new” old stuff). I love the rush of finding a new favourite band!
When and why did you first become interested in art, music, animation, publishing and everything creative?
… and any pivotal creative moments / influences?
I think I have covered this above but to sum up the seed was planted for all those things at a pretty young age and they kind of developed in spite of myself!
If you had to explain your creative endeavours to some recently crash-landed aliens…
What would you tell them?
I guess I would first have to play them some of our so called earth music and give a brief history of rock and roll from 1968-1978. Then we would have to watch a bunch of horror/exploitation films from the same era and then watch a YouTube video on the occult.
I would explain my art is what comes out when you mush all that together.
Then I’d ask if their space ship was badly damaged in the crash and if not, can we go for a spin?
For those at home who may be unaware – Please outline the what, why and whom regarding your magazine ‘Speek Evil’.
Speek Evil is an illustrated Rock & Roll Periodical consisting of a bunch of comics, tall tales, retro record reviews and interviews illustrated by me.
I also typically illustrate a story or 2 told to me by a contemporary rock musician friend (Such as Ray Ahn, Tim Rivers, Jay Whalley etc).
I have produced 6 issues so far with the last 2 also including bonus 7” singles.
… and what are some of your favourite magazines / inspirations for ‘Speek Evil.’?
I started it just prior to the pandemic hitting after being inspired by the American underground comic scene of the 60s/70s. I wanted to do something like that but particular to my interests which happens to be punk/rock music from that same era.
I wanted to do a comic where the superheroes weren’t Iron Man or Captain America but rather Dave Vanian or Wendy O Williams or whoever.
So I started writing and illustrating these weird rock and roll historical fiction/fantasy tales and the mag was born.
You played in well-loved Australian punk band Nancy Vandal…
* What’s the current status of the band?
Definitely retired now.
We have done the odd reunion show in the 2010s but The Neptune Power Federation eventually took over as my prime focus. I’ve actually played in it longer at this stage which makes my “too old at 30” call seem a bit ludicrous now. Or maybe I was right and now I’m making a fool of myself.
I’ve actually also started a NEW new band called Sick Fizz which operates in a not dissimilar punk rock space to NV.
* Care to share some memories of your time with the band for those at home?
It was a pretty fun ride!
We had a purple patch where Triple J were playing us heaps and we did a run of all the big festivals like Livid, Homebake, Falls etc.
Playing on the ABC music show Recovery was also a pretty big deal.
We had a really cool hard core fan base who were typically quirky weirdos who I really adored.
I still run into them here and there.
What impact has fellow musician Jay Whalley had on your artistic and personal life?
We ask as we know you are friends and have played in both ‘Nancy Vandal’ and ‘The Neptune Power Federation’ together.
Seeing Frenzal Rhomb in the early 90s was a massive influence on me musically and pretty much changed the course of Nancy Vandal. After seeing them it was basically “play everything faster!!” “Make it funnier.”
We played shows together and became good mates.
We lived together for a while in the mid 90s and Jay joined NV for a couple of years before he realised playing with a successful band was more rewarding. When we left Sydney I only saw him occasionally for a few years but then The Neptune Power Federation drew us back together with a vengeance.
He is a great guy to play in a band with as he super chill and has an extremely reliable radar for good/bad musical ideas.
If people wanted to check out your art and publications; work with you or buy some of your wares – Where should they visit and how should they get in touch?
I’m pretty active on Facebook and insta with these various handles…
Odds & Ends
If you could live in any place, during any historical era – Where and when would that be?
…and why would you choose that time and place?
Early 70s London I reckon.
Politically and socially things were rough but I’d be just going to gigs non stop.
What does “God” mean to you?
A pretty cool concept/story telling device.
Does sex change everything?
It definitely does when it leads to conception!!
What are the top 3 items you own?
… and what is it about each of them that you love?
My Toxic Avenger T-shirt.
I have had this since the mid 90s when I was a huge Troma fan. Other shirts of its vintage have been lost or fallen apart but I have managed to keep this one going after designating it a heritage item a while back and putting it on light duties.
It’s a great conversation starter with fellow fans of the movie of which there are many.
Pussyfoot – The Way That You Do It 7” single.
This is the first record I ever bought, and a I still genuinely love the song.
I would say my record Collection as a whole is my most treasured possession – this record can be the team representative though.
Shin Ei Fuzz Wah pedal.
This is a vintage Japanese fuzz was pedal that sounds freaking nasty af! It’s got such a unique sonic personality and looks really cool as well.
I’m not an obsessive collector of anything but if I was it would be vintage fuzz pedals.
In a fight between the following fictional Australians: Crocodile Dundee (from the Crocodile Dundee franchise) Vs Aunty Jack (From the Aunty Jack Show) – Who would win?
…and why would they be victorious?
I’m on team Auntie Jack all the way.
I have a stronger connection to it as it was played on one of the 2 available tv stations I had access to as a kid and I loved it (along with the Goodies & Kenny Everett).
Croc Dundee always felt like a marketers version of what an Australian bushman was. I grew up around actual bushman and their teeth were way worse and they used the word “cunt” more often.
Weird always wins imo.
Please describe your last dream in detail…
It was about the dawning realisation I was about to be struck by a massive tsunami.
It was like an idyllic regional Australian scene then suddenly I was in knee deep water and this massive fuck off wave was coming towards me.
I often have these “disaster film” type scenarios in dreams then jolt awake just as I’m about to get wasted.
Of everything you have done so far, what would you most like to be remembered for?
Not being an arsehole would be up there!
I feel like the art and music I make is a compulsion rather than wanting to be revered for it.
So yeah, I just hope I bummed out the minimal number of people.
- Mike Foxall aka The Art of Fox – Website
- Mike Foxall aka The Art of Fox – Instagram
- Mike Foxall aka The Art of Fox – Facebook
- Mike Foxall aka The Art of Fox – twitter
- Mike Foxall aka The Art of Fox – YouTube
- The Neptune Power Federation – Website
- The Neptune Power Federation – Bandcamp
- The Neptune Power Federation – Instagram
- The Neptune Power Federation – Facebook
- Speek Evil Magazine – Website
- Speek Evil Magazine – Online Store
- Speek Evil Magazine – Instagram
- Speek Evil Magazine – Facebook
- Sick Fizz – Bandcamp
- Sick Fizz – Instagram
All images supplied by Mike ‘Fox’ Foxall